A Chance to Go Green: GMU Students Advocate for Sustainable Land Use
By Amanda Rodriguez 10/30/2018
FAIRFAX, Va.- An 1-acre lot on George Mason University’s Fairfax campus sits empty after the demolition of its former occupant, known as the Student Apartments, took place in June. The lot falls within a Resource Protected Area (RPA), in accordance with the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA) passed in 1989, twelve years after the Student Apartments were built.
Due to the protected status of the land, there are no long term plans for the space. George Mason students taking EVPP 480: Sustainability in Action are proposing the creation of a green space which would benefit both the GMU community and local ecosystem.
“We realized that on-campus outdoor spaces are not very people friendly” said Connor Loftus, one of the students apart of the project. “We did a survey and found that most students were not happy with the current green spaces on campus, and we think that there’s a real opportunity here.” The proposal is apart of the curriculum of EVPP 480, where student groups are tasked with addressing a United Nations Sustainable Development goal through an on-campus project. “Luckily the former spot of the Student Apartments is on a Resource Protected Area, and since they just tore those buildings down, we will hopefully be the first group to try and do something with it.” Loftus commented.
Maria Rodriguez is a recent George Mason transfer and off campus student, who would support the creation of a green space. “It’s so hard to find a nice place to sit outside, I rarely spend time on campus if I don’t need to. I think if there was a green space I wouldn't rush home every afternoon after class.” Many students who filled out the preliminary survey provided by the group felt the same way. 26.5 percent of respondents said they prefer to go off campus to enjoy the outdoors, and many more suggested improvements to current “green” spaces such as improved seating, tables for studying and eating, and a meditation garden.
After contacting the GMU Facilities team, the group was told that the lot is going to be used to store construction materials for the Core Campus Project, which includes the construction of a new academic building, theatre, and central plaza. The construction is scheduled to be completed in 2021, but the group hasn’t lost hope. Dr. Dann Sklarew, who has taught EVPP 480 since 2010, encourages his students to keep trying even if they’re told no. “Seeing how to bring the two together, between students who are trying to make a difference on campus and leaders who are trying to support making a difference, with all the bureaucracy in between, it’s kind of a dance, you don’t want to step on people’s toes, you know, but at the same time you want to push sustainability forward.” He gave the example of a proposal many years ago to revamp the cottage by Mason Pond as an eco-friendly exhibit. The group was told to jump through many hoops and in the end settled for a temporary installation, which they were given permission for. “The vice president of facilities and the provost came to our open house and they both asked ‘Why aren’t you making this permanent?’” When the group explained how they were denied permission to pursue their original project, they were told by the vice president to ignore them and move forward with their installation. “Knowing that culture is alive in the leadership level is really important.”
Students have the option of submitting their proposal to the Patriot Green Fund, which is a $100,000 fund available to Mason students provided by the Office of Sustainability. “We do lab tests in environmental science...but what we don’t realize is that our campus as a whole is a laboratory” said Sklarew.
The creation of a green space would align with Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. A benchmark of that goal is “By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities”
The green space would also support the health of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The RPA was put in place due to a stream that runs from a man-made pond in front of Peterson Hall, into the Mason Pond. This water drains into the Potomac River and eventually into the Chesapeake Bay. Enforcing the 100-foot buffer zone would improve the health of this stream and contribute to the health of the entire watershed.
“The goal is to influence Mason to include student feedback into the green space. Even though it won’t happen for a few years, down the road we’d like to see a healthy ecosystem that students can enjoy and that has a positive impact on the environment.” said Loftus.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Amanda Rodriguez
Annual Communication Forum to Host Large Networking Event
FAIRFAX, Va. - October 2, 2018 - Students will have the opportunity to network with industry professionals during a new approach to the 8th Annual Communication Forum, based entirely on student feedback. More time will be allotted for students to have small-group conversations with professionals from all areas of communication. This comes as a direct response from feedback given to the communication department from students after previous forums. The forum will feature Sports Anchor Lindsay Czarniak as the keynote speaker, followed by a rotating schedule of mentoring sessions.
Communication majors with any concentration will have the opportunity to find a professional that matches their interests. During six rounds of twenty minute sessions, companies such as Northrop Grumman, The Washington Redskins, Goodwill Industries International, Sage Communication, WTOP News, and the Department of State, will be present and are eager to connect with Mason students.
The event is free, and breakfast will be provided by Northrop Grumman. Students can register for the event online at the following link.
The 8th Annual Communication Forum will take place on October 23rd, 2018 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Dewberry Hall at George Mason University.
About George Mason University
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 36,000 students from 130 countries and 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.